Yesterday morning, tens of millions of Americans awoke to a time-honored tradition: watch a televised New York City parade, prepare an oversized domesticated bird for cooking and gather with friends and family in what is – in the author’s opinion – the purest of holidays.
With a history that can be traced back to the early 1600s, one would be hard-pressed to find a “more American” holiday than the one we celebrate on the Fourth Thursday of each November.
Indeed Thanksgiving is not only a uniquely North American holiday, but it also serves as a reflection of who we are as a people — ever evolving and never staying the same.
Everything about this holiday is – and has always been – in a constant state of change.
For the most part, these changes are acceptable and in many cases make for an even more enjoyable experience — with each family adding their own special holiday tradition to the mix: for some, it’s going on a walk afterward, while others kick back and watch football or play a board game.
Yes, the beauty of Thanksgiving is that it is meant to be a time where we come together. And though this coming together may sometimes be awkward and even feel unnecessary, it has become a vital part of the fabric that holds us together – keeping us united as families, as communities and as a nation.
The timing of Thanksgiving is perfect — it’s held just a couple of weeks after bitterly fought elections. A necessary evil that accompanies living in a democratic-republic. Thanks to this holiday, our land and its inhabitants are provided an opportunity to heal over a bowl of cranberry sauce as a larger-than-life balloon of Charlie Brown is shown bouncing off buildings on the television in the background.
In an era that is defined by ungratefulness and in a generation that is known for complaining about what others have that they do not, it’s refreshing to hear people talking about the things in their life they are thankful for, for a change.
If you think about it, Thanksgiving is really a beautiful thing.
Unfortunately, this ever-changing holiday is quickly growing into something it was specifically created to be the antithesis of being.
In issuing the first nationwide Thanksgiving proclamation in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln used the following words to describe the holiday he was officially signing into law:
“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come… No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness… commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers…”
According to its author, Thanksgiving was intended to be a where the nation lifted up praise to the God of Heaven, while at the same time, extended its hand to “the widows, orphans, mourners and sufferers.”
Fast-forward to 2016 and the nation which Lincoln gave his life to make better is a far cry from the land he sought to save.
Far from extending our hands to the lowly or lifting our hands in praise, millions of our countrymen spent the evening doing something very different — grabbing with one hand a big screen television, while pushing back contenders with the other.
Each year, across the country, national headlines are all the same on the day following Mr. Lincoln’s holiday: mothers coming to blows over the last Tickle-Me-Elmo, grandfathers fighting over 40-inch televisions, and general mayhem on a level that should make any country jealous.
According to an article published in the UK’s Daily Mail, “Between 2006 and 2014, there have reportedly been seven deaths and 98 injuries during Black Friday shopping.”
I get it – the overwhelming number of participants in Black Friday doorbusters are generally kindhearted, salt of the earth people and to paint with a such broad brush ever single person that is standing in line waiting for a coffee pot would be a sincere disservice; however, we must also be careful not to keep our heads buried in the sand: The media headlines from Black Friday are a shame to this country, and it’s not the media’s fought — we’re just doing our jobs and reporting the news… and I’m glad that I live in a world where a guy getting shot to death over a parking space is still newsworthy.
This morning, 24-hours after the day that President Lincoln set aside for us to render Praise to our God and service to our fellow man, millions of Americans are instead focusing on buying more useless stuff – the majority of which will lose its shine by March of next year.
Even worse, by Friday afternoon, at least three individuals have been shot (2 dead), and dozens more have either been beaten up or injured in Black Friday mayhem taking place across the nation.
Though the details of the first shooting are still unclear, CBS Philly is reporting that two individuals were shot outside a Macy’s department store shortly after midnight in Mays Landing, New Jersey.
According to reports, the shooting took place as people were lined up outside the mall for door-buster deals.
Elsewhere across the nation, another individual was shot to death in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Reno, Nevada.
KOLO reported, “There was apparently a dispute over a parking spot…”
Unfortunately, Black Friday violence was not limited to these two cities.
Across the land, both in small towns and big cities, today’s international headlines are all the same:
“As Black Friday madness kicked off, video apparently recorded inside a Walmart in Bainbridge, Georgia, showed shoppers fighting over towels that were on sale for $1.60 during the early Black Friday rush on Thursday”
“Meanwhile, shoppers broke into an all-out melee at a Walmart in Houston on Black Friday, as customers battled it out for some $99 kiddie convertibles”
“At a mall in California, a crowd was seen gathering around two men as they appeared to exchange blows during Black Friday shopping”
As I stated in the opening section of this article, the Thanksgiving holiday is ever-evolving, as it continues to serve as a reflection of who we are as a people. As the November celebration loses more of its spirit of gratitude and service and instead becomes increasingly materialistic and violent, we must decide to take a strong and honest look in the mirror.
I’m afraid that while no one was looking, we lost the meaning of Thanksgiving.
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